In a New Jewelry Book, a Cartier Delves into Her Family

TrendsNov 21, 2019

In a New Jewelry Book, a Cartier Delves into Her Family

Francesca Cartier Brickell takes a deep dive into the brand’s journey and the four generations that ran it in her soon-to-be-released work.

Francesca Cartier Brickell did a decades’ worth of research for a new book delving into her family’s history. Here, she’s holding a photo of the three Cartier brothers and their father. (Photo credit: Jonathan James Wilson)

New York—Every jewelry lover wants to learn the history behind the industry’s storied houses like Van Cleef, Bulgari and Cartier.

When the tale comes straight from a member of the founding family, it becomes irresistible; such is the case with a new book coming out soon about Cartier.

Francesca Cartier Brickell is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Louis-François Cartier, who founded the brand in 1847 in Paris.

Cartier Brickell’s late grandfather, Jean-Jacques Cartier, was the fourth and last generation of the family to manage and own a branch of the company before it was sold in the 1970s.

“The Cartiers” book cover Though she had already started writing down stories about his life and the family business, it was the accidental discovery of a trunk full of letters in his house in France in 2009 that put everything in motion.

The trunk contained hundreds of letters believed to have been lost forever, including missives about commissions for King Edward VII, Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia, Coco Chanel, the Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Queen Elizabeth.

It also included important family moments like birth announcements, telegrams after someone had died, love letters and airmail envelopes with pages outlining business struggles and successes, strategies and advice.

“The more I read, the more I realized that I couldn’t bear that the letters might simply be packed back into their resting place for another few decades,” Cartier Brickell writes in the book’s introduction.

In addition to having regular conversations with her grandfather after the discovery to hear the stories straight from him, Cartier Brickell also researched her family’s history extensively, traveling the world to track down people with connections to her ancestors and looking through long-lost family archives to uncover new stories and create the full narrative.

The result? A book full of never-before-told stories of drama, romance, the struggle of keeping a business alive during hard times and celebrating some of Cartier’s best moments.

“The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire” delves into the jewelry brand and the family behind it, tracing its history from revolutionary France to its sale in 1974.

The book centers on the story of the founding Cartier’s three grandsons, whose collective motto was “never copy, only create”—Louis, a visionary designer who created the first men’s wristwatch; Pierre, the savvy businessman who bought Cartier’s New York headquarters on
Fifth Avenue for a double strand of natural pearls; and Jacques, a gemstone expert who inspired the iconic Tutti Frutti design.

The three brothers are credited with turning Cartier into an internationally renowned brand in the early 1900s.

In addition to the family’s stories, the book also offers readers a behind-the-scenes look at some of Cartier’s most iconic jewels, like the cursed Hope Diamond, the Romanov emeralds and its classic panther pieces, as well as the numerous celebrities, fashion icons and royals who wore them.

It also offers archival photos for a visual peek at the brand’s history and a timeline to help history buffs map it out.

Published by Ballantine Books, “The Cartiers” is available for pre-order now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and many other booksellers (links can be found online).

It will be published Nov. 26.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

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